How Israeli Tech Took on Covid-19

Health

How Israeli Tech Took on Covid-19

Briefing
Posted on: 27th May 2020
Merav Yachin
Tech and Innovation Adviser, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every sector and business around the world. And while some companies face hardship and possible extinction, many tech companies have emerged with renewed energy. The Israeli tech sector in particular has demonstrated ingenuity in its response to the global pandemic, inventing and adapting novel solutions to emerging challenges and addressing the issues created by Covid-19.

Technology has a critical role to play in responding to the crisis. From symptom detection and diagnosis, patient tracking, contamination prevention and protecting medical staff, to wellbeing for the homebound and technologies to help businesses get back to work, Israeli technology companies and initiatives are offering local and global solutions that are already making an impact. Israel’s defence sector has also joined the effort, harnessing its advanced capabilities towards adapting and repurposing technologies to fight Covid-19. 

Our new report, linked to in full below, maps these solutions – including everything from robots for patient care and disinfection to soundwave technology for touch-free workplaces to IoT sensors for waste-water management and machine learning innovations – all of which aim to address post-Covid-19 challenges, while offering new opportunities for a safe and successful return to normalcy. 

We have divided our report into the following categories of innovation:

Monitoring, Contact Tracing & Reporting

One of the most effective tools that governments use to slow and contain the spread of Covid-19 has been contact tracing – which involves tracking Covid-19 patients and alerting people who have crossed paths with them so they can also self-isolate. Provided concerns about privacy are addressed, contact tracing is a powerful tool for leaders and decision-makers to enable data-driven decisions on lockdowns, testing and opening up the economy, as well as providing accurate and accessible information to the public.

Israeli tech companies have adopted various approaches to contact tracing, including geo-location-based voluntary contact-tracing apps, anonymous AI-powered medical questionnaires, algorithm-based cellular radio-logs tracking, interactive call centre platforms for remote screening and accurate reporting, and physical wearable-based surveillance. Most solutions require available mobile data, but some technologies enable data collection from cellular towers or through USSD, which can reach any mobile phone, connected or not. 

Digital Health Solutions

The Covid-19 pandemic poses a variety of new challenges to all health-care systems. In response, governments have enlisted high-tech companies to offer solutions in the battle against the pandemic.

In Israel, well-established companies, new disruptive start-ups in the digital health sector and new initiatives launched by R&D institutes are offering their solutions, in some cases free of charge, to relieve the strain on health-care systems locally and globally. 

The technological solutions can be divided into two: symptom detection and diagnosis, and telemedicine. 

Among the tools for symptom detection and diagnosis that emerged as most effective are tools for real-time remote triage of Covid-19 symptoms via a smartphone camera, tools to flag patients’ deterioration using touch-free vital-signs sensor monitoring or wearable devices, and AI solutions for expediting and improving the efficiency of testing and scans. 

The importance of telemedicine was reinforced by the need to reduce the risk of medical staff contracting Covid-19. Within the already varied world of telemedicine solutions, some are particularly relevant for dealing with different Covid-related scenarios and have indeed been successfully implemented in hospitals. These include an online platform for nursing homes rolled out in “corona-hotels”, automated remote Covid-19 telemedicine tools for health-care providers in isolation wards or with home-care patients, and an all-in-one handheld exam-kit with the capacity to perform guided medical exams and send the results to health-care providers.

Ventilation Devices

Fears that Israel would suffer from a shortage in ventilators led to unprecedented multi-disciplinary collaboration between medical professionals, the defence industry, private-sector companies and entrepreneurs who came together in pursuit of a national mission to supply the Ministry of Health with thousands of non-invasive ventilation devices to ensure that all patients in need of high acuity ventilation support would receive it. This was done in two ways: (1) multi-disciplinary teams designing simple models of ventilation devices for mass production at a low cost from available components; (2) repurposing defence companies’ production lines for manufacturing.

Innovative PPE Solutions

The race to equip all medical staff and frontline workers with personal protective equipment has led to companies pivoting their R&D and production, offering varied 3D printing solutions for face masks and face shields. While some solutions are simple open-source 3D printing for quick turnaround and delivery to frontline workers, other solutions offer enhanced protection, combining 3D printing with nanotechnology and technologies used for protection against chemical and biological weapons. 

Logistics-Tech Solutions

Delivery and supply chain logistics have become more critical than ever in the effort to meet the demand for rapidly growing delivery volumes and to address emerging needs. While legacy logistical solutions are struggling to meet new requirements such as contactless delivery and multi-fleet dispatch, some Israeli companies are offering solutions that can help businesses continue operating despite restrictions. These include smart local delivery management platforms, automated drones for unmanned deliveries and operation of facilities, and import/export platforms that enable the comparing, booking and managing of freight under the new circumstances.

Read the full report

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